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Phoebe Green
Phoebe GreenPhotography Sara Carpentieri

Manchester songwriter Phoebe Green makes exquisite pop music

We speak to the rising singer-songwriter following the release of her new single ‘Easy Peeler’

Phoebe Green first appeared on our radar earlier this year with “Dreaming Of”, an anthemic indie pop song about refusing to comply with the expectations forced on you by others. Released by Chess Club Records (home to Wolf Alice and more), the track found a fan in Billie Eilish, who spotlighted it in her personally curated In My Room playlist.

This wasn’t Green’s first foray into music-making, though. In fact, the 21-year-old singer-songwriter – currently based in Manchester, but raised in the seaside town of Lytham – self-released an entire album, 02:00 AM, all the way back in 2016, when she was just 18 years old. The album had a somewhat scrappier sound than the artist has today, but still showcased Green’s knack for a powerful chorus, and found an audience online, garnering some three million plays over the years. “I think releasing a body of work with no sort of expectation or standard held over me was a really freeing experience,” Green reflects today. “At the time, writing was just an outlet for me. I had no idea that the songs would resonate with so many young people.”

Green’s latest single, “Easy Peeler”, is another large-scale piece of pop songwriting. Written with The Big Moon’s Juliette Jackson, it’s a sarcastic look at the ways that people perform their relationships for others. “I was thinking about a time when I really fancied someone and just wanted absolutely everything with them,” Green says. “I started listing typical things that couples do, and the lyrics started to form this sarcastic portrayal of what it means to be in a modern relationship, and the way people can control others’ perceptions of them as a couple, whether it be in a virtual or real life environment. People are proper obsessed with keeping up appearances and maintaining this perfect ideal, so the song highlights the naïvety of someone that is inexperienced anticipating what a relationship involves, based off what society and social media project.”

Its video, directed by Harvey Frost, is “a visual representation of the two sides of a romantic relationship: the aspects of it that others are presented with, and the moments that are kept behind closed doors”, according to Green. “For me it was a really fun opportunity to play both a masculine and feminine role. Harvey’s artistic vision for the video was incredible and suited the song so well, the sleazy jazz bar and the retro outfits created a dead cool aesthetic that brought it all together beautifully.”

Watch the video and get to know Phoebe Green below.

Earlier this year you released your first proper single, “Dreaming Of”. But you actually released an album before that about three years ago. Has it been weird experiencing this slightly back-to-front hype cycle?

Phoebe Green: Yeah, it is pretty strange. I think releasing a body of work with no sort of expectation or standard held over me was a really freeing experience. I was only 16/17 when I wrote the majority of the songs for the album, and at the time, writing was just an outlet for me. I had no idea that the songs would resonate with so many young people. I wasn’t even going to put it on Spotify, I was just gonna put it on Bandcamp for free so that anyone interested could download it. But yeah, I think the order in which things have happened have fitted well with my growth as a person and as an artist. I’m at a point now where I’m a lot more sure of myself and my ability, which I definitely struggled with in previous years.

How has your songwriting evolved since then?

Phoebe Green: I think it’s taken on a bit more more wit and maturity. I try to write in a way that creates an image and sets a tone, rather than simply listing thoughts and emotions. I definitely still write in a very confessional, expressive manner, but I like to be a bit more clever with it – more metaphorical and poetic, without being too pretentious and wanky. If I’m going to write about a person or an experience, I really want it to be detailed enough that you can picture it al. I really like being visual with my writing.

Your new single is called “Easy Peeler”. What can you tell us about it?

Phoebe Green: It kind of takes the piss out of what is expected of a modern relationship – ideas that are perpetuated by social media, and people’s need to create this picture-perfect image for their relationship. It’s written from the perspective of someone that is naïve to what a relationship entails, but has been fed this false perception of what it means to be with someone. That person was once me… 

What about its video?

Phoebe Green: The aesthetic is all 50s noir, gangster-style dress, which fits the film-like, idealistic nature of the lyrics but also the sleaziness of the sound so well. It was just so fun to dress up and be creative with how we visually wanted to portray the single; Harvey Frost and his team did the “Dreaming Of” video too, we all just work dead well together and seem to have a similar artistic vision for the songs, it’s really nice.  

Are you the main character in your songs?

Phoebe Green: I write from my perspective, always, but usually about other people – so maybe others are the main characters, but only ever from my point of view. I think I probably write about interactions more than just people, so there are two main characters.

What was the first music you felt you could call your own?

Phoebe Green: I made a CD of a few of my songs when I was about 14/15, so probably those, as that was around the age I started writing properly. I sold them at my school concerts and all the parents had them in their cars. They’re definitely sat collecting dust having never left their case.

“I like writing about the way I perceive others and the way they perceive me, and how we treat each other as a result” – Phoebe Green

What’s the first instrument you learned to love?

Phoebe Green: I’m not actually that good at any instrument. I only learned how to play guitar because I didn’t trust backing tracks, and if I ever had to sing in assembly, I wanted to be self-sufficient, not reliant on a faulty CD player. I have come to love piano as a form of accompaniment. When my sister plays and I sing, I feel like the two elements fit so beautifully together. Pianos have such an expressive quality and a depth that’s just really lovely.

Were you a good kid in school?

Phoebe Green: In primary school I was a little shit. I once put a worm on a boy’s head and it got stuck in his hair; I got marched to the headmistress’s office and my mum conveniently arrived to pick up my sister from nursery at the same time and spotted me stood there sulking. I somehow managed to redeem myself and became head girl, and carried on being a goody two shoes through high school. I was regarded as one of the weird music/drama kids though – which, I mean, fair enough. 

How has Manchester impacted your approach to art?

Phoebe Green: It’s made me more appreciative of other genres and styles, massively. I’m a lot more likely to actively seek out bands and artists that don’t fall into the same category as me, so that I don’t get complacent and find myself within a scene where all the bands sound the same. Manchester has an incredible queer art scene as well, with it being a pretty small city it’s definitely exposed me to work that I otherwise might not have come across. I’m lucky to have artists and musicians as friends that are so creative and talented.

Where have you been getting your ideas from recently?

Phoebe Green: I’ve been writing a lot about changes within myself, and therefore changes in my relationships as a consequence. I find that kind of thing really interesting. I like writing about the way I perceive others and the way they perceive me, and how we treat each other as a result. 

Are there any other artists you’re excited by that you want to shout out?

Phoebe Green: My good mates Witch Fever are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. They’re a feminist punk band that are so unapologetic with their rage, their sexuality, and their emotion. Their performances are incredible. Alex Rave & the Sceptical are a new band fronted by my boyfriend, they put on a really good show, along with our friends Document, who I share a guitarist with and are doing dead well, and Bleach Boy, another really amazing band. All of them are unique, but make such a cool, eclectic scene.

What are you working on next?

Phoebe Green: My posture.

Phoebe Green plays EartH in Hackney, London tonight (August 28)